A controversy over Juhu airport’s secondary runway refuses to die down. A senior officer has now alleged that although the Airport Authority of India (AAI) chairman approved resurfacing of the runway, senior officials in Mumbai are delaying matters to start work, allegedly to help real estate developers.
Deputy GM (aviation safety) S Mangala, in a letter to AAI top bosses, said that AAI chairman VP Agrawal approved the resurfacing on priority basis in August but little has been done so far.
The in-principle approval came after an aviation safety committee warned about pebbles from the damaged runway getting into helicopter engines and damaging them, causing a loss of over Rs2.5 crore to its owners.
“...even after the chairman approved the resurfacing, AK Sharma and VSP Chinson are refusing to implement his order and are sitting on the relevant file and continuing to issue illegal NoCs...” Mangala wrote.
Sharma, regional executive director (western region), AAI, and Chinson, GM (aerodrome), refuted the allegation.
Sharma said the budget for resurfacing has come to over Rs2 crore. He added that as the process for closing the runway is already underway, they had decided to just fill the potholes and carry out patch repairs instead of the entire runway. But engineers warned that they can’t guarantee durability of such work.
“Hence, at present, we are analysing all possibilities before coming to a conclusion. Also, repairs can’t start before monsoon ends. These baseless allegations are made with malicious intent,” he said.
Chinson, whose department is responsible for issuing no-objection certificates for construction around the airport, said, “As per our software system, the secondary runway is still active (till the time its closure process gets over). So, till date, not a single illegal NoC has been issued.”
“Moreover, the secondary runway hasn’t been used by any fixed-wing aircraft in the past 60 years; helicopters need a small space to land and take off. Her allegations have no basis,” he added.
The process to construct a helipad is on at the intersection of primary and secondary runways. The secondary runway has been caught up in controversy for the past couple of years after a report filed by JM Negi, former executive director of AAI. Negi called the secondary runway ‘redundant’. Subsequently, AAI declared that the secondary runway be closed.
However, pilots, helicopter operators and AAI insiders argued that Negi report was in connivance with certain AAI officials who wanted realtors to benefit from the decision.